Over the past five years I have read the entire oeuvre of Elizabeth Ironside with pleasure, ironically ending my reading with her first novel, A Very Private Enterprise. Ms. Ironside is a talented writer in the tradition of the English mystery, but she always gives you a little something more, which makes her a pleasure to read.
In this case, that little something more is the setting, which is a diplomatic post in post-Raj India. Hugo Frencham, a high-level civil servant and collector of Tibetan antiquities is found dead one morning, stabbed by a ritual dagger. Whitehall dispatches George Sinclair to solve the murder and clean up the mess. The identity of the murderer is known almost from the first by the reader but not by the characters involved, making this a whydunnit rather than a whodunnit and this and the slightly skewed setting make for a very good read.
Several things are wrong with Frencham's life. First of all he has entirely too much money both in accounts, antiquities and other treasures found in his house after his death. No matter how Sinclair tries to square it Frencham's possessions just don't match up with his salary and there is the hint that he may have been spying or selling secrets. During his investigation of the facts, Sinclair meets and falls in love with Janey, a friend of Frencham's and Janey states that the investigation is a non-starter because no life, no love no personality can be simply unpacked linking motive a to action b, though ironically it is to Janey that the murders truth is finally revealed.
The writing is solid and literary in the tradition of the English mystery and the characters are well-developed enough to be real though a few standard British archetypes do sneak in. Violence and sex are kept to a tasteful minimum. Highly recommended to fans of English mysteries as is all of Elizabeth Ironside's work.
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